'American Pastorela: The Trumpification Tour' Pokes Fun At Political Process
A Valley theater production is poking fun at the political process with a special twist on Arizona — and the playwright makes no apologies if you’re offended.
The new play "American Pastorela: The Trumpifornication Tour" opens Thursday at Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center in Phoenix, and it hits home with pages ripped directly from the headlines.
It’s a running theme. Each year, the Hernandez family, which has dual U.S. citizenship but lives in Sonora, Mexico, plans a trip to Phoenix and expresses their dismay at the circumstances that have befallen Arizona and the nation.
In this year's play, it’s this particular news that elicits shrieks from the character Mama Hernandez.
“It occurred to me that Donald Trump could actually become president of the United States!” said Mama Hernandez, while travelling to Arizona to ensure she hasn’t been kicked Maricopa County’s voting rolls.
Meanwhile, the family also hears other interesting news coming from across the border emanating from their favorite NPR broadcast.
“Our top story,” reads the newscaster, ”Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton passed out, face down into a bowl of pesto last night at a Hollywood fundraiser hosted by Lady Gaga."
Of course, much like the election itself, this is the theatre of the absurd that comes from the mind of playwright James Garcia.
“In many ways this is a two-hour long satirical op-ed," Garcia said.
Garcia, whose day job is working for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the plotline in this year’s version of the adventures of la familia Hernandez, came easily, but painfully as well.
“Some of it very truly does terrify me, but as the satirical writer for this piece, I have to find the absurdity, the humor and the hilarity in all of this, and there’s a lot of it," Garcia said.
While the production makes no secret of its dislike for Trump, it also takes its share of jabs at Clinton, played by Tara Jensen, who sprinkles the Democrat with a touch of evil.
“As a first lady, as a U.S. senator, as your secretary of state, I have proven time and time again that I can be meaner than Bin Laden, more conniving than Dick Cheney, and smarter than George Bush,” the character squawked. “‘I’m talking about senior, not junior.”
Jensen, who works also as a youth mentor, found Hillary a bit hard to mimic.
“When I watch her speak, she doesn’t have any distinguishing traits other than sort of a stern face, so I’ve tried to play with that a little bit," Jensen said.
Trump is portrayed by Bill Strauss, who retired three years ago as head of the Arizona chapter of the Anti-Defamation League. Strauss plays the part with equal parts sarcasm and bravado, wearing a haphazard blonde-orange wig.
"Yeah, little miss smarty pants, I called this press conference to announce my new golf course in Fountain Hills. It’s going to be a tremendous success, like everything I do," said the character.
Struass said the role is a major stretch — but the material was easy to find.
“All of my dialogue is stuff that he actually said! If somebody wrote it, I’d think they were a comic genius," Strauss said.
There are also cameo appearances in the play from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to former Gov. Jan Brewer, who are at Trump’s side at a news conference.
Offended? Well, playwright James Garcia said he’s used to that reaction to productions. He even embraces it.
“One year when he had Sheriff Arpaio as sort of our bad guy, we had Arpaio supporters show up and protesting in front of the theatre," Garcia said. "I secretly hoped they’d come back every single night, and that some of my characters, which that year included Saddam Hussein, J. Edgar Hoover and Hitler, would go out and protest with them.”
The New Carpa Theater Comany's production of "American Pastorela: The Trumpifornication" plays through next weekend, Nov. 6, at the Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center.
Shakespeare it’s not. But for a satirical, if not cynical, slice of life in our own backyard in 2016, it’s worth a few laughs at the time we could all really use them.